When to Switch Britax Frontier to Booster Mode

Perplexed

New member
Hi, I'm getting ready for a long road trip, and my daughter is complaining that she'd rather be in the Graco Turbobooster I keep around for babysitters than the Britax Frontier 85 seat which I've been using in harness mode for the past 3 years. She is 7 years old, neurotypical, 49" tall, and just over 61lbs. I was thinking that rather than the Turbobooster maybe the compromise is to put the Frontier in booster mode. The owner's manual says to keep the child in harness mode as long as possible, but that seems kind of crazy with the high weight/height range it supports. Is there any good safety reason to keep her in harness mode, or is booster mode so equally safe that a shaky reason like "all her peers are in boosters" is justification enough to switch?

Honestly, I've found the Turbobooster so delightfully easy to deal with that I'm tempted just to use that instead, except I have the idea that the Britax must be safer just because I spent so much more money on it (but Britax directions always leave me feeling insecure that I installed it correctly...I just stumbled upon the warning that versa-tether--whatever that is--must be used when we hit the 65lb mark). Sometimes I think the simple-to-use option is inherently better than risking that the fancier seat is not being used properly.

Thanks for your advice!
 
ADS

jjordan

Moderator
Welcome to car-seat.org!

With a 7 year old, I would have no hesitation to use a booster. In fact, the advantage to switching now, when she still fits in the harness in the frontier, is that you can remind her that if she doesn't behave properly in the booster, you can switch her right back to the harness. This can serve as extra motivation to ride well in a booster. :) We have no evidence that a properly-used booster is any less safe than a harness for kids who have appropriate skeletal development (at least 4 years old) and are at least 40 pounds.

The only thing that I would caution you with in regards to using a booster for a road trip is that if she falls asleep in the car, a booster is not going to give her as much support while sleeping as a harness. So if you do use a booster, keep a close eye on her to make sure she doesn't fall asleep and shift out of position. My kids generally haven't had trouble staying well-positioned while sleeping in their boosters, but I've seen enough "my exhausted kids fell asleep in the car! Aren't they cute!" pictures on Facebook to know that there are lots of boostered children out there who do slump over when they sleep. :)

As far as comparing safety of different boosters, we don't really have any ratings that tell us if one is better than the other. It is possible that one is overall better, and it's also possible that one is better in some situations and the other is better in other situations. All I can tell you here is that you should think about it and make a decision that you are comfortable with. Personally, my son rides in a Recaro Performance booster and I love it because of all the structure on the sides, and I think it looks very safe. But the actual reason he has it is because that's what he picked when I showed him several options on Amazon. My daughter rides in a Turbobooster because she loves it. I figure that a happy kid is a more compliant kid. :) Other people pick boosters based on looking through the features and deciding which they think is the safest, and that is fine too.
 

Perplexed

New member
Thanks! It sounds like it really doesn't matter whether we go to booster or not at this stage. I do have one follow up question on this point: "This can serve as extra motivation to ride well in a booster." What is meant by "riding well"? Does that just mean sitting up straight and not leaning forward or to the side?
 

jjordan

Moderator
Thanks! It sounds like it really doesn't matter whether we go to booster or not at this stage. I do have one follow up question on this point: "This can serve as extra motivation to ride well in a booster." What is meant by "riding well"? Does that just mean sitting up straight and not leaning forward or to the side?

Yes, basically. A booster only works if the seatbelt is positioned properly on the child, which means the lap belt should be down on the lap and the shoulder belt should go across the center of the shoulder (not falling off the outside). So if a child leans over to pick up a toy (and moving out from behind the shoulder belt), then the child is not well-protected. Same thing if the child leans over when he/she falls asleep. The other thing that some kids do is put the shoulder belt behind their back or under their arm, and again, that makes the child much less protected. So "riding well" just means that the child is sitting still 100% of the time and leaving the seatbelt alone. :)
 

Perplexed

New member
Thanks for the great responses! I was just thinking that there may be one more advantage to converting the Britax to booster mode: when winter coats make an appearance. I know winter coats are a huge issue with 5 point seats, but I'm guessing that the child can keep the coat on when using a regular seatbelt (certainly us adults do!).

On the other hand, there's a youtube video about a tragedy when a child's seatbelt failed with a booster and the child was killed, urging people to stay in a 5 pt as long as possible. If it's true that seatbelts can fail, that's a pretty compelling reason to stay harnessed...yet at the same time, I don't have LATCH so I'm depending on the seatbelt anyway, sigh.
 

Brigala

Well-known member
Adults and booster riders also need to remove heavy winter coats in the car for seat belts to work appropriately.

It can be a little easier depending on the coat to unzip it and move it out of the way of the seat belt without having to remove it entirely. But the same principles apply. You want the belt directly against the body and not have layers of fluff in between.
 

Perplexed

New member
:eek: Seriously?! Wow...I grew up in a cold weather state and I have never heard of or witnessed an adult unzipping a coat in a cold car for seatbelt safety.
 

jjordan

Moderator
IME adult coats are often less bulky than children's coats, but also people just don't realize that it is safer to unzip or remove bulky coats. And another thing is that a couple of inches of slack (due to a bulky coat) is going to be more problematic in an infant's harnessed seat, enough where it could cause the child to be ejected. Whereas that same couple of inches of slack in an adult's seatbelt is not going to be as big of a deal because the adult is still going to be big enough where the seatbelt will contain him/her.
 

Brianna

New member
I do. I am on WNY, near Buffalo.

Same here. I find with a coat zipped up I can't get the lap belt across my legs, touching my hips- it ends up on my belly. I unzip and just pull the coat far enough out of the way for the seat belt, it takes a few seconds and isn't a big deal.
 

Perplexed

New member
Wow, I guess we need some kind of public awareness campaign because I thought I was a well informed person. Although to be fair, my coat is probably the least of my seatbelt concerns...I'm a short woman with an apple shape so my belt is forever grinding into my neck and sitting on my belly.
 

Brianna

New member
Same here again, lol. I also scoot my butt back when I sit in the car, that really help to get the seat belt off my belly.
 

Athena

Well-known member
I'd hesitate to do so for a trip unless you're confident she knows how to sleep in a booster. As far as whether she can use the FR85 as a booster before she outgrows the harness, I would test her for fit.

As far as jackets, we've found it easier to work the jacket around the 3 points versus 5, but you still have to take the same basic precautions. I do the same for myself and usually take it off completely because I hate overheating. It's true that most adults don't follow this practice for their kids, much less themselves, but most parents are misusing car seats and take their kids out of boosters years too early.

The owner's manual says to keep the child in harness mode as long as possible, but that seems kind of crazy with the high weight/height range it supports.

It's a great option for tall kids who would have outgrown the harness mode by height by your child's age.

I just stumbled upon the warning that versa-tether--whatever that is--must be used when we hit the 65lb mark). Sometimes I think the simple-to-use option is inherently better than risking that the fancier seat is not being used properly.

Is there some reason you don't have it tethered now? I'd tether it today.

Have a great trip!
 

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